Writer/director Shane Black went back to his roots in modestly-budgeted buddy action/comedy fare with this year’s neo-Noir/detective romp The Nice Guys. However, the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 director is going big with his next two projects: The Predator, a semi-continuation or “soft reboot” of the sci-fi/action franchise that began with John McTiernan’s Predator in 1987 (costarring Black) and then a film adaptation of the early 20th century pulp hero stories, Doc Savage.
20th Century Fox has now re-positioned The Predator for arrival in February of 2018, clearly hoping that the film will follow in the footsteps of its fellow Fox-distributed R-Rated genre movies Kingsman: The Secret Service and Deadpool, on its way to box office success. Both Black and his writing partner, Fred Dekker, have indicated that they too have high hopes for their Predator installment – with Dekker having added that they are looking for inspiration from such giants of genre filmmaking as Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.
Dekker, when he was on the Movie Crypt Podcast (hat tip to EW), reaffirmed that he and Black are “aiming high” with The Predator. He also made a direct comparison between the film and Cameron’s Alien sequel Aliens, in addition to mentioning that the collective works of people such as Spielberg and Howard Hawks have also influenced Black and his approach here:
“If you think of the first Predator as Alien, ours is much more Aliens. It’s not Ten Little Indians, it’s not, Let’s kill off all of our characters, because we have a lot of characters, from a lot of different worlds and ideologies. I don’t mean other planets. It’s a lot of people doing a lot of things in a lot of locations.”
Ridley Scott’s Alien, in many ways, resembles a slasher film where the killer is an alien and the setting is a spaceship, whereas Cameron’s Aliens is a larger-scale survival action/thriller with horror elements. McTiernan’s Predator is similarly a small-scale sci-fi action flick where the characters are all the same location and are being hunted down horror film style by the movie’s namesake. Dekker’s latest comments thus suggest that Black’s movie will change the game (so to speak) from the 1987 film in a way similar to what Aliens did after Alien – but which the previous Predator installments did not.
Predator 2 shifted the action to an urban backdrop, while the 2010 installment Predators moved the action to an alien planet where dangerous humans are brought for Predators to hunt for sport. For those reasons, Black and Dekker will need more than a change in setting and increase in character count, to distinguish their own Predator installment from those that have come before (the Alien vs. Predator movies aside). Fortunately, they may have just that, as Dekker indicated that The Predator will examine the history and motivations for the eponymous extraterrestrials in a way that prior Predator movies did not:
“There’s a lot of great stuff in the Predator but it’s very simple. Guys get dropped in a jungle, and there’s an alien monster, and they fight the monster, and they all die except for one — spoiler alert! — and then the thing self-destructs, and there’s a nuke, and then [Arnold Schwarzenegger] flies away. It’s relatively simple. And our idea was, Okay, we know that story already. What’s behind the curtain? Why are they here? What are they doing? What’s the bigger picture of this?… I think these are questions you can answer, or at least explore, without defeating that sense of scariness. And who knows if their agenda’s changed?”
Black previously confirmed that The Predator takes place in the present-day, so it’s plausible that the film will examine how the events in the Predator universe from the past three decades have affected the Predators’ reasoning for being on Earth in the first place. That could give the movie something of a meta-narrative quality, similar to how recent “soft reboots”/franchise revivals such as Jurassic World, Creed, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens examine the legacies of their respective franchises, both in-universe and, with respect to their subtext, in the real world as well. Then again, Black’s Iron Man 3 was something of a subversive take on the Iron Man franchise, so perhaps his Predator film will end up taking a less conventional “soft reboot” approach to the larger series’ mythology (and the Predators’ backstory) too.
The Predator opens in U.S. theaters on February 9th, 2018.